John Force became NHRA's all-time leader in No. 1 qualifying positions when he raced to the top spot in Funny Car Saturday at the FRAM/Autolite NHRA Nationals at Infineon Raceway. Tony Schumacher (Top Fuel), Allen Johnson (Pro Stock) and Hector Arana Jr. (Pro Stock Motorcycle) also will lead their categories into Sunday's 11 a.m. eliminations at the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series event.
Force claimed his fifth No. 1 of the season and 139th of his career, which broke a tie with Pro Stock legend Warren Johnson for the most top qualifying positions in the history of the sport. Force took the top spot with a performance of 4.060 seconds at 311.99mph in his Castrol GTX High Mileage Ford Mustang.
"When you can be put in the books with people like Warren Johnson and Bob Glidden from years ago it makes you feel good,” Force said. “But I am still chasing them in my mind. It's what gets me up each day and keeps me going. I am a racecar driver and it's what I really love.”
Force was a bit emotional when he reflected on the accomplishment and all of the No. 1s he's earned over the years, including eight at Infineon Raceway.
“I just gave credit to all of my crew chiefs at the top end,” Force said. “From [Steve] Pleuger back in Baton Rouge (1986), to [former crew chief Austin] Coil who's not with us anymore, I wish he was but he's on vacation somewhere right now, to Dean Antonelli and Jimmy Prock. Those guys are the reason I'm here today. There's one person who's been with me before my sponsors, before my crew chiefs and that's my girls' mother, Laurie. She's the only one that's been here alongside me longer than Coil and I love her for that. I'm so thankful that she was there and still is with me, she's even here today.”
Robert Hight was second in his Auto Club Ford Mustang with a 4.084 at 311.49, while defending event winner Ron Capps was third in his NAPA Dodge Charger with a 4.107 at 305.77.
Schumacher earned his fourth No. 1 of the season in Top Fuel and 65th of his career with a 3.814 at 321.65 mph effort in his U.S. Army dragster. Schumacher didn't have the quickest dragster in either of the two qualifying sessions today but is ready for eliminations tomorrow when he will face Steve Chrisman in the opening round.
“We just need to focus on running fast and going rounds and winning this race and continuing the momentum we started in Denver,” Schumacher said. “We've just got to go out there and win this race.”
Spencer Massey was second with a 3.834 at 313.88 in the FRAM/Prestone dragster and Antron Brown is third with a 3.841 at 315.19 in the Matco Tools dragster. Series points leader Del Worsham qualified seventh with a 3.893 at 311.41 in his Al-Anabi Racing dragster.
In Pro Stock, Johnson logged a track record performance of 6.538 at 211.58 in his Team Mopar Dodge Avenger to earn his third No. 1 qualifying position of the season, 18th of his career and second consecutive at this track.
“In the morning run we made a really good run,” said Johnson, who will face V Gaines in the opening round. “We actually had to change motors because we had a little bit of a problem so we had to put in the back up motor and it really feels good to do that. We've got three or four that we can put in there and do about the same thing. Our team loves coming out here for the Western Swing. We always have a blast.”
Greg Anderson qualified second with a 6.551 at 209.69 in his Summit Racing Pontiac GXP and Erica Enders will try to claim her milestone first victory from the third spot. She posted a 6.555 at 209.82 in her ZaZa Energy Chevy Cobalt.
Rookie rider Arana Jr. took his third No. 1 of the season in Pro Stock Motorcycle with a 6.881 at 193.99 on his Lucas Oil Buell. He had to rally to take the top spot back on his final run after Eddie Krawiec briefly stole the position late in the second session.
"I saw Eddie make his run and I was like, 'Oh no, he just took it from me,'" Arana Jr. said. "I felt sick to my stomach and my nerves really kicked in. I was shaking, but I knew if I made a perfect run we could take it back. I let the clutch out and it fishtailed a little. Then I went through the gears and tucked as tight as I ever have and we got it back by a thousandth of a second. That was about as exciting as it gets right there."
Arana Jr. will face Jim Underdahl in the opening round while No. 2 qualifier Krawiec will meet resurgent Chip Ellis. Andrew Hines qualified third and will face Hector Arana Sr.